'The Triplets of Belleville'
the movie blows its previews away
days the previews are usually better than their own movie. But
that's not true of The Triplets of Belleville, where the
amazing previews never stand a chance.
Sylvain Chomet's first full-length feature, The Triplets
of Belleville, is astonishing in many ways. ["Sylvain,"
French director Sylvain Chomets first feature-length
film is an animated extravaganza an eyeful, an earful and
astonishing in many ways. The story pinballs between whimsical
nightmare and swarthy dream. Mostly, it defies description ...
... but here goes: A tough, driven grandma discovers
her seemingly disengaged grandson harboring a hidden passion for
Grandma whips the nebbish lad into world-class shape
before the underworld kidnaps him during the Tour de France.
He's shuttled across the sea and forced into slave
labor something to do with an elaborate gambling game in
a Gotham-like city where most everyone is morbidly obese.
To rescue her grandson, grandma happens upon the
help of three aging former cabaret stars who were wildly popular
in the 1930s but have become increasingly reclusive and incredibly
Grandma in training mode with daydreaming dog.
Meanwhile, grandma discovers her own latent music-making
talents and nudges the trio back into the biz with her uncanny
knack for percussion.
There's also a faithful, overweight dog whose every
thought involves food, and then there's a suitably odd but reasonably
Along the way is a seamless array of Dali-esque
images and vistas. Incredibly, the 91-minute movie tells its story
with nearly no dialog. Instead, the wall-to-wall soundtrack, which
approaches perfection, is timeless, tasty and totally debonair.
The jazzy songs work as a series of inventive, challenging
compositions, or as jaunty, quirky, background fare. The music
befits the story and gems are sprinkled throughout.
There's a simple, piano-based beauty, "Bach
A La Jazz."
Grandma joins the band.
There's "Cabaret Aspirateur," which moviegoers
will recall as linked to a vacuum cleaner, a refrigerator shelf,
the crinkling of newspaper and grandma playing her bicycle spokes.
There's an Elvis Presley-style number with a bawdy
sax and a secret-agent sound that gets crooned in French. And
then there's the triplets' giddily nonsensical theme song.
There isn't a dead spot on the album and one thing's
for sure: things start to cook whenever those swinging sisters
come around. But it's the sum of the parts images and
music that creates the powerful package.
The only comparison that comes easily to mind is
from the mid-1960s: Cinerama, the three-camera, three-projector,
wrap-the-screen-halfway-round-the-theater filmmaking medium that
was briefly en vogue before being deemed too expensive to make.
Grown-up grandson at grandma's training table with well-fed
In '68, Stanley Kubrick's 70mm print of 2001:
A Space Odyssey was shown on the massive, curved Cinerama
screen in Minneapolis truly a mind-bending experience.
I still recall a curious 10-year-old self, overhearing the random
conversations made by dumbfounded adults as we all staggered toward
the parking lot, stunned. Even dad was at a loss to explain.
I also remember the experience as life-turning,
as it so sure-handedly suggested not only the infinite nature
of outer space, but also the infinite potential for humankind
to create boundary-blasting art. It was all truly of another world.
The Triplets of Belleville lives up to its amazing
previews, then blows them away.
But where 2001 projected brave new cinematic
and intellectual concepts of outer space, The Triplets of Belleville
turns the trick regarding the real final frontier
the inner space of the mind.
Me? I got hooked upon seeing the Belleville
previews before a December screening of Wings of Desire
at Portland's Cinema 21.
Half-expecting disappointment, I just had
to see Chomets movie. The fully formed film lived up to
its previews, then blew them away.
Sure, The Triplets of Belleville will be
around forever on CD and DVD. In that sense, there's really no
reason to rush out and see it.
Then again, it might be wise to catch it now for
the sake of the big screen. Because the sooner we do, the sooner
some of us will need to see it again.
And somewhere down the line some ardent auteur will
be inspired to delve even deeper.